Latin recipes with a lot of flavor



Daisy Cooks! Latin Flavors that Will Rock Your World

Daisy Martinez

Hyperion / 2005 / $29.95

My heart sinks when a cookbook recipe refers readers to a previous recipe for preparing ingredients, as happens occasionally in Daisy Cooks! A recipe for tomato sauce, for example, includes achiote oil and the zingy condiment sofrito, ingredients that must be prepared separately.

Such detours are always a tip-off that culinary overcommitment is in my future. But the disarming Martinez, a chef with a public television show also called Daisy Cooks, won me over with her colorful spin around the Latin world, from Cuba to South America to Spain. Recipes for thick duck stew, pickled green bananas and sweet and savory fillings for empanadas require more chopping patience than skill -- my kind of cooking!

I prepared Daisy's Spanish Ratatouille, a medley of diced vegetables and fresh herbs paired with a topping of crisply fried potato cubes. It was the perfect way to make the most of the height of harvest season.

This is not an intimidating cookbook in the least, and so good-natured that I may even be persuaded to try one of those recipes that require preparation of other recipes.

Latin Chic: Entertaining with Style and Sass

By Carolina Buia and Isabel C. Gonzalez

Morse / 2005 / $34.95

It takes awhile to realize that Latin Chic is actually a cookbook and not a catalog of beautiful and sexy Latinos (who are pictured dancing, holding melons and posing scantily dressed on the beach). Consider it a new kind of fusion cookbook that blends unattainable glamour and luscious party fare such as Pumpkin Blossom Chicken and Watermelon Rubies Drizzled with Rum Sauce.

On one page, the authors, described as two "effervescent journalists," urge women to wear "supersexy" high-heeled sandals with bathing suits. On another, they offer a recipe for a Venezuelean dessert called bien me sabe, which means "tastes good to me." The result of such pairings is a tempting blend of sultry celebration and cozy comfort food.

The party never stops, as Buia and Gonzalez take readers to festivities in the Hamptons, the Dominican Republic, Brazil and San Juan, Puerto Rico, among various locations. Their lavish itinerary sets the stage for introducing readers to the many possibilities found in pan-Latin cuisine, whether it's a batch of Simple Sangria or a daring Thousand-Layer Alfajor, a decadent cake of multiple layers that "takes time and dexterity."

Spanish Ratatouille

Makes 6 to 8 servings

2 medium Yukon Gold or Idaho potatoes

canola oil

1/4 cup olive oil

1 large Spanish onion, slice

1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into 1-inch dice

1 large yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into 1-inch dice

5 cloves garlic, sliced

1 medium zucchini, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano

fine sea or kosher salt

freshly ground black pepper

one 12-oz. bag of cherry tomatoes on the stem, stemmed and quartered

Peel the potatoes and cut them into 1-inch cubes. Rinse in a colander under cold water and pat them dry thoroughly. Pour enough canola oil (about 2 inches) into a deep, heavy pot to cover the potatoes when they are added. Heat over medium heat until the tip of the handle of a wood spoon gives off a lively sizzle when submerged in the oil (about 350 degrees).

Slip the potatoes into the oil and cook, stirring gently from time to time, until golden brown and tender, about 5 minutes. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and drain on a plate lined with paper towels.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the onion, peppers and garlic, and cook until the onion and peppers are crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Add the zucchini, thyme and oregano, and season lightly with salt and pepper.

Raise the heat to high, add the cherry tomatoes, and toss just until the tomatoes are heated through. Taste and add more salt and pepper if you like. Sprinkle potatoes over the top.

Per serving (based on 8 servings): 187 calories, 2 grams protein, 14 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 15 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 8 milligrams sodium.

Recipe from "Daisy Cooks! Latin Flavors that Will Rock Your World"

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